'Tis the season for serious injuries at Amazon's Michigan warehouses

click to enlarge 'Tis the season for serious injuries at Amazon's Michigan warehouses
Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Business is booming at e-commerce giant Amazon, where owner Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man on Earth, saw his wealth grow from $113 billion to $203 billion since the pandemic hit the U.S. in mid-March. But Bezos's gain is someone else's loss.

Earlier this week, thousands of workers at Amazon facilities across the world announced a strike on Black Friday, called #MakeAmazonPay.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth," a statement sent to Amazon reads. "Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay."

It's not just COVID-19 that's putting a strain on Amazon workers. While shopping on Amazon.com may be convenient for the customer — you can get pretty much whatever you want delivered straight to your doorstep with the click of a mouse — filling that order can be absolutely grueling for employees at the e-commerce giant's regional warehouses, who are monitored by computers to make sure they hit productivity goals. And in the time around the holidays, Amazon workers log in more hours than at any other time of the year — and that spike in productivity corresponds to an increase in serious injuries on the job.

According to new data published by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, many of Amazon's warehouses see serious injury rates well above the industry average of 4 per 100 workers.

That includes:

• The "DET1" large-item warehouse in Livonia, which reported 12.7 serious injuries per 100 workers in 2017, 10.7 in 2018, and 9.0 in 2019.

• "DET2," a large-item warehouse in Shelby Township, reported 13.6 serious injuries per 100 workers.

• And "DTW1," a facility classified as a sortable warehouse" in Romulus, reported 15.7 serious injuries per 100 workers in 2018 and 10.8 per 100 workers in 2019.

Plus, in April, workers at Amazon's Romulus facility walked out in protest of working conditions, including allegations that management was not transparent about COVID-19 cases among staff.

"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams," Amazon spokesman Andre Woodson said in a statement to Metro Times, adding that this year the company committed $1 billion in new investments in operations safety measures, including enhanced cleaning and sanitization for reducing the spread of COVID-19. The company has also expanded its global workplace health and safety team to more than 5,000 employees, he said.

"We continue to invest in safety training and education programs, technology and new safety infrastructure, and we see improvements through programs focused on improved ergonomics, delivering guided physical and wellness exercises to our associates at their workstation, mechanical workstation assistance equipment, improving workstation setup and design, forklift telematics, forklift guardrails to separate equipment from pedestrians, and parking lot improvements — to name a few," Woodson said. "While any incident is one too many, we are continuously learning and improving our programs to prevent future incidents."

Still, it's worth remembering the human toll of convenience considering the City of Detroit recently sold the site of the former Michigan State Fairgrounds to the company for a new facility.

It's also a good thing to keep in mind the next time you want to order something from Amazon.com.

This post was updated with more information about #MakeAmazonPay.

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